The Great Pulled Pork Experiment

So a few days ago, I became embroiled in a very intense discussion about barbecue, pulled pork, and barbecue sauce on Facebook with a group of relative strangers. The discussion originated with a status about Alabama’s “white” barbecue sauce — specifically, how it isn’t a barbecue sauce. Which is the absolute truth — mayo mixed with spices does not a barbecue sauce make. Yes, even if you destroy perfectly good pulled pork with it.

Anyway, this poor English bloke came into the conversation and ragged on American barbecue, saying, “You Yanks pour four gallons of sugar on something and call it good!” Now, we Southerners may argue about mustard versus vinegar versus tomato barbecue sauces, but we will form a united front against anyone who tries to say shit about barbecue. Anyway, it evolved into a conversation wherein we waxed poetic about a smoky pork butt, lusted over the tang of a good sauce, and sighed while thinking about appropriate side dishes.

All this talk gave me a hankering for some smoked butt coated in barbecue sauce. Unfortunately, I am currently situated in Florida, which means there isn’t barbecue worth a damn around here. We have Sonny’s, which is a BBQ chain, but saying Sonny’s barbecue is good is like saying Mickey D’s makes a great burger. Sonny’s is adequate, but it isn’t Carolina ‘cue. I ended up trying some barbecue from a food truck parked outside of a gas station. It was adequate, but it didn’t sate the hunger. For one thing, the damn pork was chopped, not pulled.

Now, any good Southerner knows the best pulled pork comes from pork butts slowly smoked over the course of a day after spending a night in the fridge generously covered in a brown sugar dry rub. Problem is, I don’t own a smoker, and they are pretty costly to buy. You can make your own, but they require more skill and space than I have. So I wondered — is there a half-decent substitute? To Professor Google!

I found a whole forum thread dedicated to the subject. The OP is a poor soul trapped in the UK where they do not ~do~ smoked pork. He was wondering, like me, if there was a way to make a suitable replica with something else, perhaps a slow cooker or dutch oven? The forum members were sympathetic to his plight, and they offered all sorts of advice for how they thought he might be able to go about it. Armed with this knowledge from a legion of barbecue connoisseurs (I knew they were, for they understood the Carolina sauce rivalry), I decided I would try to make my own slow-cooked pulled pork that would replicate smoked butt as closely as possible.

Below you will find the process and results of my experiment. Keep in mind this was my first time making it, so there is probably room for improvement. In parentheses I note some changes I may consider in the future — you can try them now, or you can use my tested recipe. Also, I am a “bit of this, bit of that” sort of cook. These amounts are rough estimates. Finally, feel free to experiment! That’s exactly what I did, after all!

Continue reading